Wednesday, October 31, 2012

NECA Castlevania: Succubus

Several years ago NECA made a small line of highly detailed figures based on a few of the characters from the Castlevania video game franchise.  Of course the main characters in Simon Belmont and Dracula himself were included in the line, but the one that caught a lot of eyes was none other than the Succubus.

Official NECA image

I'm not sure from which game the Succubus is modeled after.  I'm going to say Symphony of the Night, but I could be wrong.  She comes with 2 accessories - and handheld battle axe and the super annoying Fleaman.  Yes, that is the little booger that jumps around when you fight Frankenstein in the very first Castlevania on the NES.


She also comes with a small black stand, but the pegs on the stand are too short to hold the figure tight.  Wearing high heel boots, the holes are located in the gap created by the shoe's heel.  I had a real hard time getting her on the stand for one and then to stand up on her own.


One thing the designers hoped to cash in on was her sex appeal.  Fitting somewhat since succubus' typically feed on males via sex.


This figure is more of a statue as there really is only 2 parts of articulation.  The arms move up and down and the head can swivel left to right ever so slightly.  That's it.  The sculpt is great - from her hair, the wings and even her corset. Speaking of her corset I'm not sure if this was changed late in the planning of the figure or not, but her top was originally supposed to come off.  If you look carefully at her...uhm...chest you can see a horizontal line.  The top half does come off, but NECA ended up gluing this piece to the figure before it's mass release.  You can pull it off, but it'll probably damage the plastic underneath and/or leave some residual marks.

I sold off this figure a long time ago as I just didn't have a fit for it in my collection.  I can only recommend this figure to single guys (happy wife, happy I right?!) and die-hard Castlevania fans.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

16-Bit Flashback: Akumajō Dracula X - Chi no Rondo (PC Engine)

Ask just about any PC Engine owner what one of the must have games for the console is and I'm sure that 99% of them will tell you Dracula X.  Part of the famed Castlevania gaming franchises, this 2-D side scrolling game never left the shores of Japan...kind of.



The game was released in Japan in October, 1993 and is the 10th Castlevania game.  The game features multiple endings, voice acting and CG cut scenes exclusive to this version of the game.  Thanks to the PC Engine's CD-ROM2 and the Super System Card, this is the first Castlevania game to utilize a save system.  In 1993 this feature was a huge improvement over the standard password feature.  The one thing that I don't fully get is the voice acting is done in German?

The game stars Richter Belmont in his quest to rescue his beloved Annette is kidnapped by Dracula's servant Shaft.  On the way he rescues Annette's little sister, Maria Renard (who becomes a playable character in the game!).  The game plays like most of the traditional Castlevania games that came before it.  Most of the standard sub-weapons are included such as the dagger, cross, holy water, axe, pocket watch and the grimoire - a magic spell book.  If you choose to play the game as Maria she has a set of unique sub-weapons: a cat, dragon, cardinal, turtle, egg or musical notes.

The game was such a success that Konami re-released the game on the Super Famicom in Japan two years later in 1995.  Akumajō Dracula XX featured a few changes however.  While the plot was the same, several of the levels were redesigned, a slightly different art style was used in the game and there are only 2 alternate levels.  Maria was also cut from the game as a playable character.  No surprise either than the music is of lesser quality being on a cartridge.  The voice acting was removed in part of the cartridge's limitations.  I believe the cut scenes remain...although they may have been removed for the U.S. Super Nintendo release, also in 1995.

If anything of this looks or sounds familiar it should.  Castlevania: Symphony of the Night for the Playstation is a direct sequel to Dracula X!

I originally owned a CD-R version of Dracula X.  The previous owner of the PC Engine Duo RX I bought included the burnt copy as a freebie.  I can remember some rather graphic cut scenes featuring a human sacrifice and knowing Nintendo I can't believe they would have left that intact when the game was brought to the U.S.  Now the original Japanese version was released on the Wii's Virtual Console in March of 2010, but I never downloaded it so I have no idea how faithful it is to the original (i.e. was it censored in any way).  If someone knows please comment and let me know.

It's not often these days that I care to own the original game in this day of digital download, but this was one game that I wanted the physical copy of.  The problem is with it being an import and the large Castlevania fanbase that exists the game doesn't come cheap on the secondary market.  If you're lucky you can get a complete copy for around $80.00, but usually it still fetches around $100.00.

With Halloween coming up I decided to brush off my copy and share it with everyone.  Part of the reason I wasn't satisfied with a CD-R or the Wii digital version is the instruction manual and the awesome artwork.  Now you can browse each individual page from the manual and see for yourself why this game is so awesome and coveted by many.











Earlier I mentioned that the voice acting is done in German.  Well one part of the story in the front of the manual is also written in German...odd.  After you've input your name your adventure starts off with the Prologue - Mission 0.  You can see in one of the pictures how there are differing paths between the levels. I like this as it adds more replay value to the game. I love the art used for all the characters.  By the way, the other 3 girls you see are maidens you can also rescue in your quest to vanquish Dracula.  The last two wide scans show some of the enemies and boss characters you'll run across during the game.  Most of them are just as formidable in the game as they appear in the manual.

Looking at still pictures and scans is one thing, but when talking about video games you need video.  A quick search on YouTube and I found a video featuring the opening sequence and the entire run.  The video is over 3 hours long so I don't expect anyone to watch it all, but skip around and take a look if you aren't familiar with the game.  I can't express how fun this is to play and just how awesome it is.  Hands down this has to be one of the finest games in my library.  I personally bought a PC Engine console solely for the ability to play this game.  Of course that was before the Wii (or even the PSP) was released.  Would I recommend someone today buy a PC Engine for this game?  Not really...unless you are an avid gamer.  It's a GREAT console and there are a lot of great games for it, but with the ability to download it to you Wii console or buying the relatively cheap Dracula X Chronicles PSP game, save your money.  As I said it doesn't come cheap, but if you do decide to take the plunge I think you'll be one happy gamer like myself.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Movie Maniacs: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Series 7 - Erin

I collect too many toys as is so I've done my best to stay away from collecting new lines of toys, however every once in awhile a line catches my attention.  Such is the case with McFarlane Toys' Movie Maniacs.  Being a big horror film fan it should come as no surprise that these "figures" really appeal to me.  Now why did I put the word figures in quotes?  Well, because they aren't traditional action figures - more like well designed and sculpted plastic statues.

Knowing that these were nothing more than slick (or is it sick?) display pieces I went ahead and selected the Texas Chainsaw Massacre diorama of Erin from Series 7.  I was a huge fan of Michael Bay's 2003 reboot of TCM and what red blooded male doesn't find Jessica Biel to be a piece of eye candy?  For me it was a match made in heaven.



McFarlane Toys did an excellent job re-creating a scene from the movie where Erin is being chased through a butcher/meat plant by Leatherface.  The whole diorama stands at about 9 3/4 inches tall.  The figure of Erin is removable, but without the aid of the base the figure can't stand on it's own.  The figure of Erin is about 5 3/4 inches tall.


The overall sculpting is very very nice, but they didn't quite nail down Jessica's face for the figure. The part that makes this piece so visually entertaining is the large chunk of meat and all the hanging chains and hooks.  A few of the chains are metal and can be repositioned.

My wife was never super crazy about me having this "toy" on display - not sure if it stemmed from it being horror movie related or the fact that it was Jessica Biel in plastic form.  I've since found a new home for it, but I wanted to immortalize the toy here on the blog and with Halloween right around the corner it was the perfect time to share it.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Transformers Beast Wars Neo: Dead End D-32

Beast Wars - in both the U.S. and Japan - have brought a wide variety of animals to figure form. While most of the animals are, shall we say mainstream choices, others have been down right odd. Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever imagined an ammonite being a candidate. Leave it to Japan and the exclusive Beast Wars Neo series to deliver.

Dead End was released in Japan in 1999 and is a basic sized referred to as the scout class. In typical Japanese fashion the toy comes in a very nice laid out box. In addition to the window showcasing the toy itself we are also given a very nice CGI rendering of Dead End.

The right side of the box (on left) depicts Dead End in robot mode wielding his weapon while the right side of the box (on right) shows the action feature if you will - that being the right side of the shell being a giant spring loaded missile!

Like with all the rest of the toys in the series the bottom of the box shows off other releases as paired in their versus 2 packs. Dead End was paired with the awesome Cybertron Break who just happens to be a shellformer as well.

Dead End has to be one of the oddest, yet coolest Transformers to date. I love how the ammonite shell has holes in it giving it an old, weathered feel. The large purple peg sticking up on the top is actually the trigger that when depressed, launches the entire right side of the shell. The shell of the toy is an off white plastic with painted pink/red highlights. You can see some of the purple robot bits through the shell's holes.

As a kid I could transform any of my TFs without ever looking at the instructions. As I grew older and the toys grew more complex this changed. Up until the Car Robots / RID line I could still manage to transform most TFs without having the instructions in front of me. Dead End was not one of those TFs! Like most shellformers this toy is carefully folded up in a certain manner to fit inside the shell. I can't tell you how much this guy originally frustrated me. As you can tell in the above picture Dead End has his arms and legs and mashed up.

After you get all the parts folded out and in their proper places you have a robot that appears to be bigger than he actually is...thanks to his ammonite shell halves. Dead End features a great head sculpt and his articulation is through the roof. However like with many shellformers the weight of the kibble ways him down and makes it hard for the figure to stand on it's own. It also seems as if the shell halves are too heavy for the shoulder connections and have loosened the ball joints a bit. His neck, shoulders, elbows, hips, knees and ankles are all on ball joints - and all of them are loose on mine.

The front tentacles from beast mode double has a hand held weapon. I don't know how well you can tell from my pictures, but right in the middle you can see the gun's barrel.

If you were curious here is what Dead End looks like "naked". He is actually quite small once the shell halves are removed. He is a marvel of engineering and a very unique Transformer figure. As shown on the bottom of his box he was partnered up w/ Break C-32 which is an equally impressive toy. If you don't have either figure and you aren't turned off my shellformers then I highly suggest tracking down the VS-32 set.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Transformers Kabaya: Fortress Maximus - Part 4 of 4


Behold!  Kabaya Fortress Maximus!


I'll be letting the pictures do most of the talking here.




I never fully understood how Fort Max could fly in battle station (or city mode), but it's still cool they were able to replicate these forms so well with this kit.




Just like with the G1 toy, Cerebros transforms and becomes part of figure in city mode (see just above the blue ramp launcher).


I can't stress how awesome this set is.  Unlike many of the previous new Kabaya kits, Fort Max feels like a solid toy once you have him assembled.  Best thing too is he isn't a part former!  You don't have to unassemble him to convert between the various forms.  If you've been curious about these kits or if you are turned off my the other kits because of the stickers or part swapping then you may want to give Fort Max a look.  At the time of this posting Captured Prey has him in stock for the lowest price on the 'net - $30.  This is a really fun toy and I can't wait to see how Big Powered turns out next.  If that group of 3 are made as well as Fort Max I may have to set a new shelf just to showcase these Kabaya kits.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Transformers Kabaya: Fortress Maximus - Part 3 of 4


We're finally down to the 3rd and final Fortress Maximus kit.  In this set are the left arm, leg and ramp along with the Master Sword and a tiny Powerglide.  Kit #2 was kind of lackluster so what can we expect here?  Well for starters we have a small Powerglide figure and Fort Max's large sword so the kit has to be good, right?



The layout of the box is the same as the others so nothing new here.  The side panel does however show off a spring loaded launcher that can propel Powerglide (or Windcharger I presume) off the ramp!


Upon assembling this set it felt like there were less parts than compared to the first two kits.  If you can't tell that is a small spring taped to the square piece of cardboard.


The alternate mode is small, but decent.  Like I was surprised with the launching ramp in the first kit I didn't expect a similar device for the other ramp.  Inside that blue box is a small spring allowing you to pull back on the small blue block.  Push the button on the top and whatever you have on the ramp is launched off.  I should mention there is quite the tension in that small spring too.



Where I didn't care as much for Windcharger in the first set, I love this little Powerglide figure.  First of all he only has 2 small stickers.  I'm kinda surprised there wasn't a sticker for the robot mode, but there is some good sculpting for the face so I'm OK without a sticker.  The kit also holds together much better than Windcharger.  To transform him you do have to pop off the wings and plug them into the side.


Fortress Maximus owners like myself growing up outside of Japan didn't get the luxury of having the cool Master Sword with our G1 Fort Max toys, so I'm really glad they included the sword in this kit.  While the sword is large, it's sized just right for this kit.  Molded in red plastic, there are 6 small black stickers applied - 3 on each side.

We're almost there!  Check back for the last post to see how all of this comes together.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Transformers Kabaya: Fortress Maximus - Part 2 of 4


Kit #2 in the series includes Fort Max's right arm, leg and ramp.  The Headmaster Cerebros is also included!



For those of you that wondered - yes, Cerebros does in fact transform!


This kit was just as easy to assemble as the first.  Like with the first kit most of the stickers actually go on Cerebros with only a few being applied on Fort Max himself.


I could give the first kit's alternate set up a pass as it looked OK, but this just looks goofy in my opinion.  What's the deal with the rotating ramp on the top?



If you look in the middle of the white section of the leg you'll see a small dial.  When this dial is rolled left or right it rotates the attached ramp up on top.  What purpose does this serve?  Good question!  I guess that Kabaya was again trying to instill some sort of play value into the kit as a stand alone piece.


Cerebros assembled looks pretty plain...but that's what the stickers are for!  His arms, legs and chest are all stickers.  My only issue is the arms and legs do have some molded details and aren't flat.  This makes the stickers want to not adhere really well.  I can see these peeling very easily and with the fact they provide Cerebros so much detail you may want to break out the super glue and a toothpick.


Like with Windcharger from the first kit, Cerebros transforms like his G1 self.  The large visor piece does fold down in robot mode to cover Fort Max's face.  Speaking of his face - it's a sticker.  Bah.

I was impressed with kit #1 - not so much with #2.  The transforming Headmaster is of course cool despite the sticker issues, but I still couldn't wait to get the 3rd and final set assembled.  Keep's all coming together!